Serena Williams is stepping away from tennis, although she doesn’t have a firm date in mind and she’s not using the word ‘retirement.’
‘I have never liked the word,’ Williams wrote in the latest issue of Vogue. ‘It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people.
‘Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution,’ she continued. ‘I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.’
Those ‘other things,’ she explained, are business and family.
For starters, Williams not only wants to spend more time with her husband, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, and their five-year-old, Olympia, but the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner is hoping for another child.
‘In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family,’ Williams wrote. ‘I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.’
And then there are Williams’ copious business interests, including her own venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, which raised a reported inaugural fund of $111 million last March. Furthermore, she and sister Venus are both minority owners of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, she’s part owner of a National Women’s Soccer League Team, and she has her own sustainable clothing line, S by Serena.
Then there is her seemingly endless list of endorsement deals: Aston Martin, IBM, Pepsi, Delta Air Lines, Gatorade, Audemars Piguet, Beats by Dre headphones, Mission Athletecare, Berlei bras, Mini, Intel, Tempur and Chase Bank.
Williams is not quitting immediately. For starters, she’s currently playing in a tournament in Toronto, and actually just won her first match in 430 days on Monday after battling health issues for much of the past few seasons. And as she revealed in her piece, Williams is still hopeful she can play at the US Open in New York later this month. She’s also committed to playing at next week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
‘Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year,’ she wrote. ‘And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.’
And Williams isn’t looking for the kind of ‘farewell’ tour that many male athletes have enjoyed before their imminent retirements. Instead, the younger half of the famed Williams Sisters thanked fans in her piece and admitted that she’s going to miss the game.
‘But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,’ she continued. ‘I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.’
Serena Williams has announced her imminent retirement, in part, because she wants to spend more time with daughter Olympia (right)
In addition to her family, Serena Williams is also stepping away to pay more attention to her many business interests
Now 40, Serena has spent much of the past few seasons recovering from injuries as she’s plummeted in the world rankings
Serena Williams pictured alongside her husband, Alexis Ohanian (near left) and playing in a doubles event earlier this year
Serena said she wants to spend more time with her five-year-old daughter Olympia (left), and possibly have another child
Serena Williams of the US with her daughter Alexis Olympia after her win against Jessica Pegula of the US during their women’s singles final match during the Auckland Classic tennis tournament in Auckland on January 12, 2020
The 40-year-old Williams has not won a Grand Slam since the 2017 Australian Open, and has been chasing her 24th major singles championship to draw her even with Margaret Court on the all-time leaderboard.
Williams doesn’t deny that the record is meaningful, but she took the time to put it in perspective for Vogue.
‘There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ”open era” that began in 1968,’ she wrote. ‘I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.
‘The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams,’ she continued. ‘I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.’
Serena Williams stands with her sister Venus Williams and father Richard Williams at a tennis camp in Florida
Serena (near left, right) was introduced to the world as the younger half of the famed Williams Sisters. (Left) She and older sister Venus pose for pictures before a Wimbledon semifinals meeting in 2000. Venus would go on to win 6–2, 7–6(3)
Born in Saginaw, Michigan to Oracene Price and Richard Williams, Serena initially grew up in Compton, California – an LA suburb that was once synonymous with crime but has since become known for producing two of the greatest tennis players in history.
Venus and Serena Williams famously played on local courts, where they were taught by Richard – a tennis novice, who immersed himself in the game in his mission to propel his daughters to on-court success.
Like all tennis families, the Williams clan made the pilgrimage to Florida to help the girls develop. Serena was nine at the time, and quickly became the top-ranked player under the age of 10 in what was, and remains, a largely white sport.
While the family members say they faced racism on the amateur circuit, Venus and Serena appeared unbothered. They would become pros in their early teens and endorsement deals followed soon thereafter.
Then, beginning in 1999, the pair emerged as the sport’s biggest stars.
First Serena won the US Open at 18 by beating World No. 1 Martina Hingis. Venus followed with Wimbledon and US Open victories of her own in 2000 and 2001 before Serena finally secured the top ranking in 2002 by winning in Paris, London, and New York, before capturing her first Australian Open victory in 2003.
In total, the two have combined to win 30 major single titles, not to mention Olympic gold medals for singles and doubles, where they remain among the greatest teams in tennis history.
Both Venus and Serena have fallen victim to age and injury in recent years, though. The former hasn’t won a major since Wimbledon in 2008, while the latter has been shut out since Australia in 2017, which happened to coincide with the birth of her daughter, Olympia.
She’s won titles since giving birth, but continued to battle leg injuries and was forced to drop out of one tournament after another.
In fact, much of her year has been spent promoting a movie about her father, titled King Richard, which garnered several awards and somehow resulted in Will Smith slapping Oscars host Chris Rock.
Champion Serena Williams of the USA (right) and her sister and runner-up Venus Williams pose with their trophies after the Women’s Final of the Compaq Grand Slam Cup tennis tournament at the Olympiahalle in Munich
The announcement comes, strangely enough, after her first win in 430 days. ‘I’m just happy to get a win,’ Williams said Monday after beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 at the women’s National Bank Open in Toronto. ‘It’s been a very long time, I forgot what that felt like’
The announcement comes, strangely enough, after her first win in 430 days.
‘I’m just happy to get a win,’ Williams said Monday after beating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4 at the women’s National Bank Open in Toronto. ‘It’s been a very long time, I forgot what that felt like.’
It’s just the second tournament of the season for the 40-year-old Williams, who returned to competition at Wimbledon just over a month ago. The 23-time Grand Slam champion fell in the first round to Harmony Tan in three sets at the All England Club.
SERENA’S INCREDIBLE SINGLES HONORS LIST
US Open: 6 titles (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)
Wimbledon: 7 (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)
Australian Open: 7 (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017)
French Open: 3 (2002, 2013, 2015)
Olympic Games: Gold, 2012
319 weeks as World No. 1
Prize money: $94,524,403 (1st in all-time rankings)
Before then, she last competed at the 2021 Wimbledon tournament, where she retired in the middle of her first match due to a torn hamstring suffered after slipping on the grass surface.
Williams, who will turn 41 at the end of September, will next face either 12th-ranked Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martincova.
She’s won this tournament three times and reached the final in her last appearance at the hardcourt event in 2019, losing to Bianca Andreescu when she was forced to stop because of injury.
But Williams has played little since and knows she needs time on the court.
‘I feel good, I felt like I competed well today. I think that’s what I needed to do, is just compete,’ she said. ‘Mentally, I’m getting there. I’m not where I normally am (or) where I want to be. Any match I play, whether I win or lose, helps me.
‘I haven’t played a lot in the last year, (even) two years. I think that helps me physically. I feel much better in practice, it’s just getting that to the court. Literally, I’m the kind of person (where) it takes one or two things and then it clicks.’
Williams started out strong, taking the first two games with relative ease.
Parrizas-Diaz tied it 2-2, but despite Williams’ struggles at certain points, the 31-year-old Spaniard couldn’t find enough of a consistent flow to get ahead. Williams found her rhythm, mixing solid touch with her signature power and putting shot after shot out of Parrizas-Diaz’s reach.
Williams’ effort had the fans on their feet roaring and some even bowing.
She won the final three games to take the first set, then surged ahead in the second after the 57th-ranked Parrizas-Diaz took a 4-3 lead. She endured a nine-deuce game to hold serve and even the set, then broke in the next game before serving out the victory.
While Williams says the end of her remarkable career is in sight, she’s enjoying her time and staying in the moment.
‘I’m getting closer to the light. Lately, that’s been it, I can’t wait to get to that light,’ she said, adding the light represents ‘freedom.’
‘I love playing though, it’s amazing,’ she added. ‘I can’t do this forever, so sometimes you just want to try your best to enjoy the moments and do the best that you can.’
Alexis Ohanian, left, and Serena Williams arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. The couple is now hoping to have a second child together
Serena Williams’ box-office appeal always outweighed her diva-like tendencies… she is IRREPLACEABLE
By Mike Dickson, Daily Mail Tennis Correspondent
It was the morning after Serena Williams’ night before, and various theories were doing the rounds within the confines at Wimbledon earlier this year.
One was that it had been a good thing she did not storm to a commanding victory in the first round against Harmony Tan of France.
The idea goes that it would not have reflected well on the women’s tour if a 40-year-old had returned from a year’s absence, with seemingly limited physical preparation, and won as if she had never been away.
That was not meant to be a slight on the seven-time champion, for whom it has now been confirmed to be a farewell to Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
For what she showed that evening — and there will be the TV ratings to back it up — is that she will be irreplaceable now she has announced her retirement.
Serena Williams waves as she leaves the court after losing to France’s Harmony Tan in a first round women’s singles match on day two of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Tuesday, June 28
Williams heads for retirement at a time when the women’s top 10 has never been more anonymous. The strength in depth on the WTA circuit may be deeper than ever but it is short of headline acts.
The world No. 2 is Anett Kontaveit, for example. She was beaten in straight sets at Wimbledon by world No. 97 Jule Niemeier of Germany.
Admirable pro though Kontaveit undoubtedly is, the 26-year-old has never been past the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam and could hardly be described as a household name outside her native Estonia.
She would have been unlikely to reverse the trend is of seeing smaller crowds than the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.
There may be multiple reasons for this: looming recession, the weather, user-unfriendly ticket systems and Covid worries, to list a few. Another was the absence of Roger Federer, because you can never have too many authentic superstars with pulling power.
Serena is one of those rarefied few, and her retirement is a blow to a sport already missing some of the next bracket as Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic miss big tournaments for non-sporting reasons.
Her box-office appeal has always outweighed her somewhat diva-like tendencies, which can be exasperating to those who work in the game.
Playing doubles in recently, her partner Ons Jabeur was said to be agasp at the way Serena could dictate things like the length and timing of press conferences.
Yet, for all the hassle and the hubris, any event would love to have her because she is a unique source of drama and intrigue. She will be a huge miss for tennis.